The University of Alabama men’s basketball team announced its 2014–2015 non-conference basketball schedule on August 8. Although several headline matchups are carryovers from last year, there were a few unexpected teams added to the lineup.
Alabama basketball limped to a 13–19 (7–11 SEC) record last season and many believe that Alabama’s extremely difficult non-conference schedule was a limiting factor to the team’s success on the court.
With Anthony Grant coaching for his job and one of the best point guards in Alabama history gone to play professionally, this is a pivotal year for the Crimson Tide.
Grant’s first losing season as a head coach wasn’t well-received, to put it lightly, but an easier non-conference schedule and some promising returning talent could allow the Tide to rebound from a horrendous season a year ago.
Alabama finished the 2013–2014 regular season with the seventh toughest schedule in the nation, thanks in part to early season matchups against Duke, UCLA and Wichita State. Although the Tide will see several tough opponents in the early going this year, it should be smoother sailing into conference play in 2014–2015.
Join us as we preview the Crimson Tide’s 2014–2015 non-conference schedule over the next 13 days.
December 6 – @ Xavier
Continuing on the same mission, Alabama will turn around later in the week and look to redeem another loss from last season.
This time the Crimson Tide will hit the road for their first true non-conference road test, traveling to Cincinnati to face Xavier (21–13, 10–8 Big East).
The Musketeers faired pretty well in Big East conference play picking up a win against then No. 9 ranked Creighton in early March.
Xavier’s leading scorer from last season Semaj Christon is now in the NBA and the Musketeers will have to find a way to replace his 17.1 points per game.
Then senior forward Isaiah Philmore went off against the Crimson Tide last season notching 17 points and 12 rebounds in route to Xavier’s 77–74 victory.
Philmore is out as well, but that doesn’t mean Alabama can relax. The Crimson Tide got blown off the ball for most of the non-conference season last year, so sophomore forward Jimmie Taylor will have to show some major improvements.
Shannon Hale and Rodney Cooper will be called upon to help defend the low post and although both players are 6-foot–8 and 6-foot–6 respectively, they are still more comfortable on the outside.
The Musketeers did make the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but head coach Chris Mack has the tough task of replacing some key veterans before even thinking about postseason play.
Alabama’s depth at the guard position could be the deciding factor. If the Crimson Tide can defend well and play efficiently, they could escape Ohio with a redemption win.
Tomorrow’s game preview: December 12 – vs. Tennessee Tech